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Russian Missiles Hit Kharkiv, Killing at Least 6

WorldEuropeRussian Missiles Hit Kharkiv, Killing at Least 6


Russian rockets slammed into residential buildings in Kharkiv before dawn on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said, killing at least seven people and injuring at least 11 more in the latest assault on Ukraine’s second-largest city.

“Russian terror against Kharkiv continues,” President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in a statement. “It’s crucial to strengthen the air defense for the Kharkiv region. And our partners can help us with this.”

Ukraine’s air defenses have come increasingly under strain since American military support stopped flowing into the country more than six months ago, and future assistance remains uncertain amid Republican resistance in Congress to a $60 billion aid package.

Speaker Mike Johnson, Republican of Louisiana, has hinted that he would soon bring the issue of military aid for Ukraine to a vote in the House, but has also said that he might tie the issue to unrelated matters like domestic energy policies that could complicate its passage.

At the same time, Russia has replenished and expanded its stockpile of missiles, guided bombs and attack drones and is stepping up its bombardments across the country.

Mr. Zelensky said this past week that “in March alone, Russian terrorists used over 400 missiles of various types, 600 Shahed drones and over 3,000 guided aerial bombs against Ukraine.”

Kharkiv, second in population only to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and only about 25 miles from the Russian border, has been particularly hard hit. Russian forces tried and failed to encircle and capture the city in the first months of the war, which began in February 2022, and they were driven out of most of the Kharkiv region during Kyiv’s counteroffensive that fall.

As Russia has stepped up its aerial bombardments of Kharkiv, it has for the first time deployed powerful guided bombs to hit the city.

The use of the modified bombs represents a new and potentially deadly development against which Ukraine has little defense, Ukrainian officials and military analysts said.

There are a number of variations of the weapons, known as glide bombs, but essentially they are powerful gravity bombs modified with a set of wings and guidance systems to allow them to be dropped by fighter-bombers out of the range of Ukrainian air-defense systems.

More than 20,000 buildings have been destroyed in Kharkiv since Russia launched its full-scale invasion. Ukrainian government officials estimate that it will cost more than $10 billion to rebuild everything that has already been destroyed.

“Practically all critical energy infrastructure in Kharkiv is destroyed, and private infrastructure is also shattered,” Ihor Terekhov, the city’s mayor, said this past week.

“More than 150,000 residents of Kharkiv are left homeless,” he added.

In the most recent overnight attack, Russia hit residential neighborhoods with a barrage of S-300 missiles, which were fired from Russian territory and can reach Kharkiv in under a minute, Ukrainian officials said.

Nine residential buildings, a kindergarten, a cafe and a gas station were among the buildings damaged, Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv military administration, said in a statement.

The attack came less than 48 hours after Russian drone strikes in Kharkiv on Thursday killed four civilians, including three emergency workers.

The bombardments have coincided with a propaganda campaign by the Kremlin aimed at stoking panic in the city.

“Russian propaganda is spreading fake messages among Kharkiv residents, allegedly from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, about the possible encirclement of Kharkiv in the near future with recommendations to leave the city,” the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine said.

“This information is not true,” the agency said. “The enemy does not currently have the resources to surround or capture Kharkiv.”

Despite the daily attacks and blackouts, there has been no major exodus from the city, which has a population of 1.3 million.

In recent months, Russia has leveraged air superiority to make tactical gains on the front. For instance, it has used hundreds of guided bombs to obliterate Ukrainian positions in Avdiivka before seizing the longtime stronghold in eastern Ukraine this year. Moscow appears to be seeking to replicate that strategy to weaken other Ukrainian fortifications across the front.

Russia has also been working to increase the distance such bombs can fly, according to Ukrainian officials.

The guided bombs used to target Kharkiv recently — which have been identified by Ukrainian officials as air-to-surface missiles — have been designed to travel more than 55 miles, allowing Russian warplanes to launch them with relative impunity from inside Russia, Ukrainian officials said.

Once the bombs are unleashed, there is little Ukraine can do to shoot them out of the sky, so Kyiv is trying to find other ways to counter the threat.

As part of that effort, Ukraine on Friday launched a complex drone assault targeting Russian warplanes at multiple airfields across Russia.

A senior Ukrainian security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss continuing military operations, said that the drone assaults had destroyed at least six military aircraft and significantly damaged another eight.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that its air defenses had intercepted more than 50 drones aimed at targets across the country and made no mention of damage to planes.

It was not possible to immediately verify the claims by either side, and there was no independent visual confirmation after the attack that would allow military analysts to assess the damage.

However, the scale of the Ukrainian operation would be significant, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said on Friday night.

“Ukraine’s ability to strike four separate air bases in one strike series represents a notable inflection in the capabilities that Ukrainian forces are employing in their campaign against Russian military infrastructure, critical infrastructure, and strategic industries within Russia,” the analysts wrote.

Anastasia Kuznietsova contributed reporting.



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